My Life In Food: Elizabeth Haigh

Elizabeth Haigh is the founder of Kaizen House, a restaurant that draws on her South East Asian heritage to bring to life the Singapore-style coffee shops of her childhood. As she launches Mei Mei – a new restaurant in Borough Market – the former MasterChef cook reveals her favourite London haunts, the best party she’s ever thrown and what she likes to make for a quick midweek meal…

The restaurant from my childhood that will always stay with me was a local Italian in Maidenhead, where I live. It closed a long time ago, but I remember going there on special occasions and ordering a pasta course followed by a steak each time as a treat. We always had a great night out as a family because the restaurant was a family-run business and they were such great hosts. It’s a shame it closed!

The first dish I learned to cook was sticky toffee pudding. I remember getting flour absolutely everywhere and I loved it. My mother – not so much.

The restaurant I revisit most often is Kiln in Soho. I always order whichever laap (a Laos-style mince salad) is on the menu; aged lamb and cumin skewers; and the jungle curry with brown jasmine rice and stir-fried Cornish greens. It just takes me back to Thailand even though it’s in the middle of Soho. I love going as a solo diner and sitting by the bar, watching the chefs work.

My favourite chef has to be Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America to have three Michelin stars for her restaurant, Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Or any one of my team members. They rock. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, and are incredibly talented and passionate about what they do. They’ll go far in their careers.

My most memorable meal was a recent dinner at Nouri in Singapore. Ivan Brehm is a fascinating chef, and the food was incredible and interesting. The best dish was a scallop ceviche, where they carefully shaped the raw slices of marinated scallop into the shape of a rose, delicately flavoured with herbs, flowers and caviar. It was almost too beautiful to eat.

My favourite pub is the Drapers Arms in Islington or the Coach in Marlow. You have to go to the Drapers Arms and order a Sunday roast. At the Coach, I love going for a full English breakfast and Bloody Marys.

When it comes to bars, I love Bright or P Franco. I'm more into wine than going out for cocktails at the moment. I don’t tend to drink spirits at all – I drank enough when I was at uni.


My drink of choice is ‘Kopi Gu You’, which is like bulletproof coffee. We’ll be making our own signature butter coffee at Mei Mei.

If I was going on a date, I'd start off with drinks and snacks at Emile, a pop-up in Shoreditch, then head to Brat for a long dinner. Head chef Tomos Parry is so talented and the produce the team uses is top quality. Any dish there impresses.

If I’m entertaining at home, I love to cook my Singaporean nonya chicken curry. It’s spicy, warming and perfect for getting conversations going because I make the curry powder and paste from scratch. 

My dream guest would be American comedian Ali Wong. She's fiercely funny and would liven up any party. 

Mei Mei

The secret to hosting a good dinner party is keeping everyone’s drinks topped up, having a great spread of food and making sure there’s plenty of toilet paper. 

The best party I’ve ever thrown was my engagement party. My husband and I arranged canapés and champagne at the Drapers Arms, followed by drinks and food back at our flat. I was too preoccupied with guests to cook, so I sent my husband out to pick up MeatLiquor and Black Axe Mangal for everyone. I remember we had lamb flatbreads, lots of ‘Dead Hippie’ burgers and beers everywhere. Everyone loved that it wasn’t too serious. 

My go-to dish on a Sunday night is a classic Sunday roast without fail. I usually roast a beef sirloin as that’s my favourite, served with loads of Yorkshire puddings and honey-caramelised carrots and parsnips. 

If I have food on the go, it tends to be a banh mi – a Vietnamese sandwich – from Banh Mi Keu Deli on Old Street or in Soho.

The one dish I always order if it’s on the menu is anything with sweetbreads or offal dishes. I love them. 

For a quick midweek meal, I like roasted chicken thighs, onions, olives and mushrooms in one roasting tray covered in homemade tomato sauce with wild rice. It’s so good and only takes about 25 minutes – tops. 

I try not to eat when I finish late but, if I do, it’s usually a bowl of ramen topped with whatever is in the fridge.

Draper Arms

My favourite new restaurant opening is Flor in Borough Market. I love the clam flatbread with spenwood and garlic, and the scarlet prawns with orange yuzu kosho. Similar to Kiln, I like sitting at the bar counter and watching the team work while I enjoy my meal. Don’t miss out on the brown butter cakes or the lardy buns to take away for a treat later on.

The most decadent meal I've ever had was at the Fat Duck when it recently reopened. I think we counted about 26 courses/bites. The tuck shop at the end of the meal, where this theatrical shop is rolled over to produce these beautiful petit fours, was the most memorable course.

My death-row dinner is Hainanese chicken rice. Every part of the dish – from the rich chicken stock cooked rice to the gently poached chicken – has so much flavour. I like to combine it with a spicy garlic and chilli sauce that smacks you in the face. It’s a dish I could happily die with.

And my food hell? Over-processed foods. 

Mei Mei, Southwark Street, Borough Market, SE1 1TL



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